Mastodon has been a wonderful band to listen to and enjoy, watching them group up from a young band to adults who have, quite honestly, made some wonderful and terrific albums. Although I struggled a bit with The Hunter, I eventually came to really like the album but not overly loving it like I did with all the other Mastodon albums. They have a diverse and wide range of music, though, in my opinion, I find that Crack The Skye was the height of their musical prowess.
The announcement of their new album I presented myself with a question – would they continue down the same path they had been treading for the past two albums, or would they somehow merge together their sounds? With “Sultan’s Curse”, the first taste we had of the album, it was clear that Mastodon were once returning to the heavy but also staying accessible; a perfect meeting of their two sounds, thus answering my previous question above. More singles were released, the ever-catchy “Show Yourself” and the groove- and riff-laden “Andromeda”, and this time it gave us a chance to hear how the band are still combining previous eras of themselves and merging it into their new sound.
The band was not shy about the events surrounding most of this album’s concept – a traveller handed a death sentence – and many of the band have had to deal with the loss of family members. The band in the ‘making of’ videos that were released to YouTube said during those clips that the band have always written with what you know, and talked about some of the previous album’s concepts.
This album, for the mos part, is a really enjoyable listen. It’s fun, it’s groovy and, most of all, there are plenty of riffs to digest. It’s true when they said that Bill was on fire with this album! Only three tracks out stretch that 4-minute mark (“Stormbreather”, “Roots Remain” and “Jaguar God” – the last two minutes of that track, wow, what an ending! Those riffs!) and most of the other tracks stay in that three- and four-minute threshold. Again, I feel that this is the band trying to stay accessible whilst trying to hark back to their old selves; I can feel much compromise in the band’s songwriting.
Emperor Of Sand is an enjoyable Mastodon record, but at the outset now I feel that this album that will really need time to explore and not just an offhand first-time-listen album. It’s a grower, not a shower, as some other reviewers might say. This is truly a Mastodon album through-and-through and, for that, I rate it very highly.